A Long, Hard Road For Family's Naturalization

More than a decade after a Pakistani immigrant was killed by a self-confessed racist seeking revenge for 9/11, the murdered man's family is being naturalized. It's been a grueling trip for the murder victim's family; it took years and a rare private relief bill shepherded by Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., to ensure the Hasan family's residence in the United States. NPR's Elizabeth Fiedler reports.

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Staying in New Jersey, members of a Pakistani family were sworn in as U.S. citizens on Friday. It was a fulfillment of their father's dream. Unfortunately, he wasn't there to celebrate. Waqar Hasan was murdered just days after the September 11th attacks.

Elizabeth Fiedler of WHYY in Philadelphia has the story.

ELIZABETH FIEDLER, BYLINE: More than 10 years after losing her husband, Duri Hasan and her daughters are realizing his dream.

DURI HASAN: I hereby declare, on oath...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That I absolutely and entirely...

D. HASAN: ...that I absolutely and entirely...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ...renounce and abjure...

D. HASAN: ...renounce and abjure...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ...all allegiance and...

FIEDLER: Just before the naturalization ceremony held in Congressman Rush Holt's New Jersey office, the widow thanked Holt for guiding her family to this point.

D. HASAN: It means a lot to us. We all are very grateful to you.

REPRESENTATIVE RUSH HOLT: Seeing you here now at the culmination of 10 years of work and hope and difficulties is thanks enough.

D. HASAN: For us, no, it's not enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

D. HASAN: It's not enough. Yeah.

FIEDLER: The Hasan family moved from Pakistan in the 1990s with the dream of a better life. But on September 15, 2001, everything changed. While working in a Texas convenience store, Waqar Hasan was murdered by a man who sought, quote, "revenge" for the September 11th terrorist attacks. Hasan's daughter Nida calms her baby while recalling what happened that day.

NIDA HASAN: I remember going downstairs to my room and praying that he was OK. I remember my mom coming home from work and she was crying and she was in shock, obviously.

FIEDLER: Waqar Hasan had planned to move his wife and four daughters from New Jersey to Texas once his convenience store business got going. Congressman Holt says after the murder, a second shock hit the family.

HOLT: They were in the United States by virtue of his working papers. And so their visas, their right to be in the United States, their path to citizenship died with him.

FIEDLER: He says it only seemed fair to offer the Hasans the chance to stay in America.

HOLT: It actually required new law. And so with the help of, you know, human rights activists and immigration groups and religious organizations and concerned individuals from all over the country, we managed to pass one of these rare private bills that allowed the family to get on the path to citizenship.

FIEDLER: John Thompson from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says the timeframe is not unusual, especially considering how long it usually takes.

JOHN THOMPSON: The law, of course, was not - did not take into account exceptional circumstances like this. And so it was - a lot of extra effort had to be fulfilled to actually get to this point in time.

FIEDLER: Hasan's killer was executed last year. Waqar Hasan's daughter Anum says today, like every day, she's thinking of her father.

ANUM HASAN: It's more than just taking an oath. It's - it means so much more for us. And it's just a feeling of tremendous accomplishment for my father, for my mother, and it's just a big - and for our kids, what we can provide for our kids now that we're here permanent. We have a secure future.

FIEDLER: Duri Hasan says during the ceremony she thought about her husband and how happy he would have been to see his family take their oath of citizenship. For NPR News, I'm Elizabeth Fiedler in Philadelphia.

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